Commission repeats warning on ending automatic early release of prisoners

Whilst welcoming the new assurance of compulsory supervision for long-term ex-offenders the Scottish Human Rights Commission has reiterated  concerns over the Scottish Government’s proposals to end the automatic early release of prisoners.

Following on from the Commission’s written evidence and oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee last month, further evidence has been given ahead of the publication of the Stage 1 Report on the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill.

In the submission, the Commission once again raises concerns over the practical application of the changes to the system, including the potential for increases in Parole Board applications, adequacy of rehabilitation programmes and prison overcrowding.

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Commission, said:

“The proposals stand to add further strain on the prison system. Likely increases in Parole Board applications and appeals concerning the adequacy of rehabilitation programmes would pile pressure on a system already beset by overcrowding and resource  issues.

“The Scottish Government’s revision of its earlier proposals is  welcome as it  recognises  the serious consequences of releasing long-term offenders into the community without any adequate supervision. However, the length and application of compulsory supervision needs to be clarified along with further review of prison rehabilitation more broadly.

“Any future policy changes need to be based on robust and up to date evidence rather than assuming the public will be safer if offenders  are in prison longer. This idea may have some limited validity but the length of prison sentences is often  more to do with the seriousness of the offence rather than risk to public safety.”

The Justice Committee will meet on Tuesday 24 February to take further evidence before publishing the Stage 1 Report.